Meals on Wheels donations surge after White House budget proposes funding cuts

Meals on Wheels received donations 50 times its average on Thursday.

March 18, 2017, 4:55 PM

— -- Meals on Wheels, a non-profit program that serves senior citizens around the U.S., has seen its online donations surge since President Trump’s administration released a budget proposal that could result in funding cuts for the organization.

The White House released its proposed budget early Thursday, and during the course of that day, online donations to Meals on Wheels were 50 times the usual daily total -- $50,000 compared to the typical daily rate of $1,000, Jenny Bertolette, vice president of communications for Meals on Wheels America, told ABC News.

The increased giving has continued. By Saturday afternoon, Meals on Wheels had received just over $100,000 in mostly small individual gifts since the proposed budget was released, Bertolette said.

She said the group is particularly gratified by people vouching publicly for the value of the Meals on Wheels network, which through a network of 5,000 programs in the U.S. serves nearly a million meals per day. Each year, 2.4 million older Americans, including 500,000 veterans, are served by the program.

“What is most valuable to us is the fact that so many people are speaking out in support of this public-private partnership and demanding that Meals on Wheels remain a funding priority,” she said.

The Meals on Wheels network receives its funding from a combination of state and local funding, private donations and other resources. Bertolette said 35 percent of its funding comes from the Older American Act Nutrition Program. That program's funding could be affected by the White House's proposed cut of about 16 percent to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The exact size of any possible cut to Meals on Wheels is unknown, but White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, "Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again, that's a state decision to fund that particular portion, to take the federal money and give it to the states, and say, 'Look, we want to give you money for programs that don't work,'" Mulvaney said.

In addition to the proposed cut to Health and Human Services, Trump's budget proposal would eliminate Community Development Block Grants, a $3 billion program that is provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and which some communities use to supplement Meals on Wheels and provide safety checks for the elderly.Both agencies provide funding for Meals on Wheels, although its main source of funding is the Older Americans Act overseen by the Health and Human Services Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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